This is the fourteenth of fifteen draft Bills in an Alternative Queen's Speech that sets out what a legislative programme might have looked like if a majority Conservative government had been elected. Read more about the initiative here.
Britain has a proud record of holding free and fair elections where the integrity of the result is beyond question. However, lax postal voting rules threaten to undermine that reputation.
In 2004 Labour councillors in Birmingham organised a city-wide campaign to rig local elections, seizing sacks of postal votes from postmen and altering completed ballot papers. During the 2010 General Election concerned citizens reported over 30 allegations of postal vote fraud to the police. Twice this year similar allegations regarding postal votes in Tower Hamlets have been passed to police. Over 2000 postal voting packs went missing shortly before last week’s local elections in Leeds.
Maintaining trust in our electoral system is vital, and postal votes are the chink in its armour. Plans to replace household registration with individual electoral registration by 2015 election should make electoral fraud more difficult. But we need to go further. We need urgent reform of postal voting rules.
For decades everyone had to vote at polling stations unless they had a good reason to vote by post. But in 2001 the rules changed and now anyone can apply for a postal vote. Allegations of postal vote fraud have since soared. This change needs to be reversed as soon as possible.
Furthermore, right now there is little protection against “impersonation” – turning up at a polling station, claiming to be someone else and voting in their name. Some fear this could become fraudsters’ favourite loophole. To combat them, voters should have to provide more proof of identity at polling stations.
Electoral fraud is a threat to our democracy, and reform is essential to retain confidence in our electoral system.